Archives for posts with tag: environment

Eel_lorez_ashleyhalseyI recently painted the American Eel as a contribution to a the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center 2016 calendar with the theme of field and stream. A few years ago I read a fascinating book on these mysterious and mythical creatures called Eels: An Exploration, from New Zealand to the Sargasso, of the World’s Most Mysterious Fish. While reading this book I learned all sorts of facts about these bizarre and unusual fish.

” The freshwater eel, of the genus Anguilla, evolved more than fifty million years ago, giving rise to fifteen separate species. . . The freshwater eel is one of the few fishes that does the opposite, spawning in the sea and spending is adulthood in lakes, rivers, and estuaries. . .” —James Prosek, Eels.

The American eel is found along the Atlantic coast including Chesapeake Bay and the Hudson River and as far north as the St. Lawrence River region. Is also present in the river systems of the eastern Gulf of Mexico and in some areas further south.





The Black-footed Ferret (Mustela nigripes) was considered extinct until it was rediscovered in 1981 in Meeteetse, Wyoming. Shortly after that a captive breeding program was started, and in 1991 captive-bred ferrets were released into the wild. They are still classified as an endangered species today, and breeding and conservation programs continue.

Because the Black-footed Ferret relies primarily on prairie dogs as its food source, it lives in and around prairie dog communities. Originally, the prairie dog ecosystem occupied 20 percent of the entire western rangeland, allowing ferrets to cover a large geographic area. Today that area is limited and Black-footed Ferrets are found only at reintroduction sites. Much more information, photos and video are available on the Black-footed Ferret Recovery Program website.

Limited edition prints, as well as the original of this painting are available on my Etsy shop.

© 2013 Ashley P. Halsey

Sitting next to the water’s edge is the California Red-legged Frog (Rana draytonii). This species of frog is native to California and is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List.(1)  The frog gets its name from the red color that can be seen on the underside of the hind legs. The overall coloring of the frog ranges from brown to red, the red becoming more prominent as the frog ages.

The California Red-Legged Frogs were among the most abundant amphibians in California until the late 19th century when the arrival of California gold miners caused them to be almost eaten into extinction. About 80,000 frogs per year were consumed by the booming human population.(2) Today the frog population has declined seriously. However, in March 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced 1,600,000 acres of protected land for the species throughout California.(3) Check out the frog in this short video.

Limited edition prints, as well as the original of this painting are available on my Etsy shop.

© 2012 Ashley P. Halsey

The Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio) is on the smaller side, as far as owls go—reaching about 10″ in height at adulthood; but it still maintains that stately owl dignity. Like all owl species, the Screech Owl can not turn its eyes within its sockets, but instead will rotate its head as much as three-quarters of the way around its body to get a better look. And like other owls, they are stealthy hunters, using their keen hearing and eyesight to locate prey in the still of the night. Their specialized feathers with fringes of varying softness, as well as their broad wings and light bodies make them nearly silent in flight. Screech owls mate for life after an elaborate courtship ritual takes place.[1] The pair will generally produce only a single brood per year.

A rather intriguing symbiotic relationship has been observed in Screech Owls in Texas. In a number of cases researchers have observed the owls bringing live Texas blind snakes to their nest cavities where the snakes will then live and eat parasites, larvae and other insects afflicting the chicks in the nest. The snake will leave the nest once the chicks take flight.[2]

The original work is available for purchase on Etsy.

© 2011 Ashley P. Halsey

Have you ever tried to catch a grasshopper? It’s pretty hard; and there are a couple of reasons why. For one thing, most can jump 20 times their length – and some species more than that. The other reason is that grasshoppers have five, yes five, eyes!

I believe this brightly colored little guy is a Differential grasshopper (Melanoplus differentialis). I found him in action eating his lunch in a friend’s garden. There are 548 species of North American grasshoppers, so it can be hard to keep track of which one is which. Most grasshoppers are considered pests because they can destroy crops, however, they have a wide range of natural predators and also can be beneficial when they eat weeds. Instead of lungs, grasshoppers have tiny holes, called spiracles, in their thoraxes and abdomens. Next time you see a grasshopper, look at it closely. You can see the abdomen move in and out as it breaths.

The original work is available for purchase on Etsy.

© 2011 Ashley P. Halsey

Moon snails are pretty awesome. I accidentally stumbled on one when I was a kid and I thought it was some kind of monster coming out of the sand. The snail was at least three times the size of any snail I had ever seen, and the memory has stuck with me ever since. Moon snails are carnivorous snails that feed on bivalves by boring holes in the shells of their prey. So if you see a shell with a perfectly drilled hole in it, there’s a good chance it was a moon snail victim.

I’ve depicted the snail pulled into its shell here, because I wanted to highlight the colors in the shell. When the snail comes out the foot (the part of the snail outside the shell) is so large that it covers a large part of their shell. It helps them move through the sand in search of prey. Moon snails lay their eggs in a curved ribbon, or egg collar, made of sand and mucus. The structure is smooth,  curved and very durable – a rather unusual structure to put eggs in, I think. See the snail in action here.

The original work is available for purchase on Etsy.

© 2011 Ashley P. Halsey

This Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina) is a little shy. Unlike other land turtles, box turtles have the unique ability to close their shells completely because of a hinged shell. They have a wide range from the northeast through the mid-west and south. Box turtles are extremely long lived – often living over 50 years. As a result, they are slow to mature and reproduce. Habitat destruction and fragmentation threatens the box turtle today. They can be found in any number of habitats, but generally they stick with moist forest floors and open pastures.

Prints of this work are available for purchase on Etsy.

© 2011 Ashley P. Halsey

Chipmunks can be found all across North America. This particular chipmunk is probably a Uinta Chipmunk (Tamias umbrinus). Most chipmunk species hibernate at least some of the winter, and spend the summer months collecting seeds, nuts, fruits and berries. Rather than storing fat, they periodically awake during hibernation to eat some of their stored food.

Like squirrels, chipmunks play an important role in the distribution of tree seeds. By harvesting and hoarding the seeds they contribute to the growth of seedlings. They can be found running around in sheltered areas like low shrubs, stone walls and logs to stay protected from predators.

This original work is available for purchase on Etsy.

© 2011 Ashley P. Halsey

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